As you research your career options in financial services, you’ll come across the term “bulge bracket”. What does it mean and why should it matter to you?
Bulge bracket describes multi-national banks that work with large institutions, corporations and governments. Offering the full range of investment banking services, these are typically big-name banks that have been around for years – if not centuries. Barclays, founded 326 years ago, is one of them.
Alongside the bulge bracket are a range of other independent banks, specialist boutique operations and private equity firms. These smaller businesses can look appealing to new graduates and MBAs, but it’s important to understand that the bulge bracket offers many opportunities for you to make your mark.
Laying a solid career foundation
From a wider career perspective, gaining access to a variety of clients early on will give you the very best chance of success when starting out. And there’s no better place to experience this within financial services than at a bulge bracket bank. First, you’ll be exposed to a variety of products, services and industries. Second, no matter which division you work in, you’ll be at the center of global commerce, working on some of the biggest deals in banking, the broadest research coverage across asset classes or making markets on any one of dozens of sales and trading desks. This kind of breadth will offer you an end-to-end insight you won’t necessarily get in a smaller firm.
What’s more, bulge bracket banks’ success comes from the contributions of hundreds of people every day – not just one or two “superstars”. The focus is on delivering for our clients through teamwork and collaboration, meaning more exposure for you from day one.
Training and networking
All careers in investment banking begin with an intensive period of learning. In the bulge bracket, companies offer a structured induction and training program, lasting up to seven weeks in some places (like Barclays Banking division!). This equips you with a broad framework in which to fit your future experience.
You can think of this initial training as a second university. You join with a class of peers, some of whom may become lifelong business contacts and even close friends because of the special bond formed during those first weeks together. The extensive network you build during training and throughout your early years at a bulge bracket bank could sustain you for the rest of your career, constantly exposing you to new opportunities and giving you the support you need to get ahead.
Another perk, which you’ll find at Barclays but not necessarily all other bulge bracket banks, is a team of graduate development specialists who are there to ensure you have everything you need to get your career off to a great start.
Bulge bracket businesses have well-established ways of operating, but is it difficult to get noticed when you work for a much bigger company? Not at all, and here’s why.
At a bulge bracket business, you’ll have all the resources behind you that you need to succeed. Fresh out of university or business school, you might struggle by yourself to attract the attention of a client CEO to view your creative ideas. What’s more, building your pitches, models and materials for clients from scratch is hugely time-consuming. But at larger banks you’ll be able to draw on the research, analysis and senior expertise you need to make a fully professional case.
For example, imagine wanting to make a deal for a power and utilities client in Spain. You need industry expertise, knowledge of local legislation, business practices and cultural insights, as well as product capabilities. Larger firms can quickly bring different local and global specialists together to address all these needs, creating a ‘dream team’ almost overnight.
What’s more, with extensive support teams who help you with things like industry and company research, travel arrangements and formatting presentations, you’re given more time to focus on what you do best: coming up with brilliant solutions for clients.
Building a long-term career
Another great thing about the bulge bracket banks’ size and scope is the potential for a long-term career within the organization. At Barclays, we train people to be the best in the industry and then promote them to leadership positions within our firm. Advancing from Analyst or Associate to Managing Director, Group Head or even higher happens regularly – just look at the biographies of many of our leaders.
In a bulge bracket bank, this career progression doesn’t have to be in one business unit either. The breadth of products and services on offer means you can reinvent your career as many times as you want to, moving between different areas and even different countries to build experience and find your niche. What’s more, you don’t have to wait until you have an important title to make moves like this. At Barclays we offer a range of mobility options to graduates, meaning you can fashion your own career path from the very start.
A great place to learn and grow
The sheer number of places available in the bulge bracket means more graduates join the big players – and there are good reasons to do so. Bulge bracket banks like Barclays are planning for the next generation of leadership, so you can be sure your talents won’t be overlooked. It makes them an ideal place to develop your career.
To find your place at Barclays, check out all the businesses that hire interns and graduates.